Come along for the ride!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

“It is written …..”

I was doing my usual thing of not being able to decide what to eat for lunch at work the other day and so found myself standing and staring at food menus. Working in a building that provides news and programmes in over 30 languages around the world, I am often stood listening to a conversation that makes no sense whatsoever.

On this occasion, the people I found myself listening to were Vietnamese, but the interesting thing was when someone they obviously knew came over and said something to them in English.

Without so much as stopping for breath, they spoke briefly to the friend in English, laughed, and then continued talking in their own language again, without pausing for breath.

This ability has always impressed me.

Yes, I know it’s just called being bi-lingual and yes, I know lots of people speak more than one language but it impresses me nevertheless. When we eat at my mother-in-laws for example, the conversation flits between English, French and Arabic, usually all in a single sentence.

I like it.

I like listening to it, and I like the fact that I can pick up different words and pretty much follow the conversation.

But let’s face it, following a conversation is nothing like actually speaking another language.

Joseph and Annabel are picking up on French quite well although I have always moaned at M for not speaking to them in French or Arabic more often. (Hey, if I wasn’t moaning at her for that it would be something else, believe me!!)

As obvious as it may sound, since marrying a Lebanese woman I have become hugely more interested in other cultures. Working where I do (not for much longer), has also opened me up to experiencing different ways of doing things.

It has made me far more aware.

For example, we were eating in one of our fave restaurants the other day and I was having a look around, as you do … (alright, yes, I was being nosey and checking out our fellow diners) and noticed a family to my left; Dad had dark hair but Mum and 3 children all had a shock of blonde, almost white, hair (think Boris Johnson and you’re half way there). I found it interesting how the colour of the guy’s hair had been completely ignored in the gene pool of their offspring.

(I admit, I find often entirely random things of interest).

Continuing my surveillance, I then noticed another family with a white, English Dad (we could hear him), his Chinese wife, joined by her parents and their young daughter, around 18 months old.

Lots of mixed race families, I thought.

Like my own.

I then looked at my family and smiled.

Yes, I think Joseph is very handsome and yes, I think Annabel is very pretty but looking at them (and M), I realised how much of my own genes were ignored. They have their mother’s thick, chestnut brown hair as well as her dark, dark brown eyes, almost black in fact.

Where am I going with this? Well, not for the first time, I have absolutely no idea but what I actually wanted to say was that I wish I had learnt to speak another language when I was younger. I managed to get a fairly good grounding in Spanish but, thanks to a prime time slot of being the class joker, I managed to get dropped from the “doing really well class” to the “don’t waste your time class”.

What a shame.

I learnt British Sign Language which technically is a language but not one I often have a chance of using.

I have also been on several ‘learn to speak French’ courses but apart from picking up some vocabulary – the same each time – I never manage to quite grasp the language itself.

Hey, maybe I should give up on French and try Arabic?

Yeah, I reckon that’s what I’ve been doing wrong.


Who knows, this time next year, I could be fluent.



Post a Comment

<< Home